Opposite effects of weak transcranial direct current stimulation on different phases of short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI)

Cengiz B. , Murase N., Rothwell J. C.

EXPERIMENTAL BRAIN RESEARCH, vol.225, no.3, pp.321-331, 2013 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 225 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00221-012-3369-0
  • Page Numbers: pp.321-331


Short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) is a common paired-pulse TMS technique that is used to measure GABAa-ergic inhibition in the cerebral motor cortex. However, inhibition evaluated with an interstimulus interval (ISI) between the TMS pulses of 2.5 ms has quite different properties from that seen at 1 ms. It is thought that the latter may represent either (or both) a different type of synaptic inhibition or refractoriness of neural membranes. The present experiments provide further evidence about the early and late components of SICI using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a technique thought to change neural excitability by polarising the nerve membranes. We assessed SICI using a threshold tracking method at a range of ISIs during concurrent application of tDCS in 11 healthy volunteers (8 males, 27-43 years old). Each subject underwent both anodal and cathodal tDCS with two different intensities of stimulation (1 and 2 mA). Because there was no significant difference between the results at the two intensities, the data were combined. Principal component analysis was used to separate the contributions of early and late SICI to the time course of inhibition from 1 to 5 ms tDCS had opposite effects on early and late SICI. Anodal tDCS reduced late SICI but enhanced early SICI, whereas cathodal tDCS had the opposite effect. This is further evidence that the two phases of SICI are produced by different mechanisms, perhaps involving different sets of neurones or different locations on the same neurone that respond oppositely to tDCS.